The new broadcast season is only 10 days old, and we already have the first ratings controversy. Pundits are scratching their heads over the abnormally big upward adjustments ABC’s series are getting every day in the final Live+Same Day ratings vs. the fast nationals.
With the exception of this Monday, when ABC’s fast nationals were inflated by local NFL pre-emptions, the network’s fast nationals in adults 18-49 and total viewers have been adjusted up every night. On eight of the nine nights, the entire ABC lineup went up in the finals. That is a total of 20 programs, all getting a lift without a single downward adjustment in 18-49. Compare that to the other three major networks, where there have been 15 adjustments combined — nine up a tenth and six down a tenth.
While no shows on the other broadcast networks have gotten an 18-49 lift larger than a tenth, a whopping six ABC series were adjusted up by two-tenths: last Monday’s episodes of Dancing With The Stars and Forever, last Tuesday’s opener of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Wednesday premiere of Modern Family and probably the most puzzling ones, this Tuesday night’s debuts of comedies Selfie and Manhattan Love Story. The latter is one of the more obscure, not very well promoted new series, so for that many people to put a brand-new comedy with no name recognition on their DVRs and make a point of viewing it on premiere night is improbable.
Then there are the jaw-dropping upward adjustments of three-tenths each for the season premieres ABC’s dramas Once Upon A Time and Resurrection this past Sunday. Observers call the .3 lifts unprecedented as nobody can think of a case of a single adjustment of that size to a regularly scheduled program with no overruns, let alone two on the same night. (You can see a list of all ABC series that have been adjusted up over the past 10 days below the story via the notes ABC has been sending daily with its final ratings.)
The conundrum has experts baffled. The sample of viewers used by Nielsen for the fast national ratings is the same for all networks. Why is the problem of grossly undercounting viewers only affecting ABC?
I hear ABC late last week approached Nielsen, which is reviewing the issue. There has been no explanation yet from the ratings measuring company.
There also are no strong theories about what could be causing the lower ABC fast nationals. Some have mentioned possible technical issues with the lineup of shows that the affiliate stations have to report every day, though that is being dismissed by many experts.
Attention seems to be focusing on Nielsen’s efforts to integrate viewing on other devices rather than TV sets in the ratings it reports. Some suggest it is possible that ABC viewers could be consuming more programming on such devices that takes longer to process, leading to their exclusion from the network’s fast nationals. Still, there are many upscale, young-skewing series on other networks that too would be conducive to consumption on such devices. It seems strange that not a single one of them would get the same .2 or .3 lift so many ABC shows have been receiving.
There is no silver bullet yet in the case of the undercounted ABC fast national ratings. So until the problem is fixed, we have to be extra skeptical of these numbers. Fast national ratings in general are less and less reliable as more and more people opt for time-shifted viewing. Nielsen’s ABC problem takes that non-reliability to another level.
Monday Sept. 22: ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (2.2/6) and special premiere of Forever (1.7/5) each went up 2-tenths of a rating point among Adults 18-49 in the National numbers.
Tuesday Sept. Sept. 23: ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. went up 2-tenths among Adults 18-49 in the National ratings this afternoon from this morning’s preliminaries, while Forever and Dancing each adjusted up 1-tenth.
Wednesday Sept 24: ABC’s Modern Family (3.9/12) increased 2-tenths of a rating point and both The Middle and The Goldbergs went up 1-tenth of a rating point among Adults 18-49 in the National numbers.
Thursday Sept. 25: Each of ABC’s premieres went up 1-tenth of a rating point among Adults 18-49 in the National numbers: Grey’s Anatomy – 3.1/11, Scandal – 3.9/11, How to Get Away With Murder – 3.9/12.
Friday Sept. 26: Both Shark Tank (1.9/8) and 20/20 (1.6/6) went up 1-tenth of a rating point among Adults 18-49 in the National numbers.
Sunday Sept. 28: ABC’s entire Sunday line-up went up in the National ratings this morning, with Once Upon a Time and Resurrection each rising 3-tenths in Adults 18-49 to a 3.7/11 and a 2.5/7, respectively, and Revenge gaining 1-tenth to a 1.5/5.
Tuesday Sept. 30: ABC’s Selfie (1.6/5) and Manhattan Love Story (1.5/5) each increased 2-tenths of a rating point, while Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1.8/5) and Forever (1.4/5) both went up 1-tenth among Adults 18-49 in the National numbers.